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Pumping device helps heart patient waiting for transplant – The Journal Times

January 30, 2015 3:23 pm

Dear Dr. K: I have severe heart failure. My doctor wants me to consider an LVAD. What do I need to know?

Dear Reader: Heart failure is a condition in which the heart cannot pump efficiently enough to meet the body’s need for blood. It needs help; it’s too weak to do the job. Medicines can strengthen the heart, but only to some degree. Ultimately, the only solution may be a heart transplant.

What about when medicines aren’t enough, and there isn’t a heart available to be transplanted? Increasingly, left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) are being used as a “bridge” to transplantation.

An LVAD is a battery-driven pump that is implanted in the chest. It pumps oxygen-rich blood around the body. In so doing, it helps perform some of the work that normally must be done entirely by the left ventricle (the bottom left chamber of the heart). In other words, it helps take the load off the left ventricle.

An LVAD consists of a pump, a control system and an energy supply. The pump can be located inside or outside the body. The control system and energy supply remain outside the body. (I’ve put an illustration showing how an LVAD works on my website,

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